As coronavirus cases increase, hospital chaplains adjust to a new normal.
No visitation is allowed, so chaplains are utilizing technology to help patients communicate with family.
“Ministering to all individuals is something we hold to upmost importance,” said Shay Greene, director of pastoral care for UNC Medical Center.
While coming to the hospital always adds stress, the pandemic has added another level.
“We’ve worked very hard within the hospital to stay connected,” she said. “We are trying to use as much technology as possible.”
Members of the chaplain team contact patients via phone to see if they need any help, whether it be prayer, literature or even help with contacting family members.
“All of our churches are pretty much closed down,” she said, and ministers aren’t allowed to visit the hospital either. “We are looking to provide that care to those patients.”
Social distancing has also affected the chaplain staff. Chaplains have started working various shifts in order to spread out their care and to keep their distance from one another. Prior to COVID-19, most chaplains worked 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
While the technology has been different than their normal routines, Greene said, “We are finding it does work. We can be connected and share our spiritual practices in unconventional ways.”
On a personal note, Greene has had to adjust to attending Trinity Baptist Church in Raleigh at her home and meeting with her Sunday School class on her couch.
One of her three children is a senior in high school. Seniors are experiencing grief and loss at the things they won’t be able to do again or things they won’t be able to experience. Just as the health care workers are dealing with their own grief at changed routines. This coronavirus is causing isolation to be the new normal for people.
“The grief is real, and it’s magnified because of the isolation,” Greene said.
Part of Greene’s job is 24-hour accountability, but she advocates finding a way to totally unplug.
“That’s been life-giving,” she said. “It’s not irresponsible” if you have someone backing you up.
People are spending more time online but Greene said it seems to be “more about the relationships online, not the things I used to spend time online.”
Greene shared a few prayer requests:
• For protection and safety of the workers and patients. “Many are working in hospital in 12-hour shifts, then go home to tend to families,” she said.
• Pray for them to sustain their family life.
• Pray for financial stability.
• Pray for rest and wellness when at home. “Just knowing people are praying has been very important to me,” Greene said. “There was a sign that was on our parking garage door that said ‘I am praying for you.’ It brought tears to my eyes. It’s the little things that have meant a lot.”